The Naked Family (Bombay Beggars)

Souza, F.N.
The Naked Family (Bombay Beggars)
signed and dated 'Souza 1944' and titled 'The Naked Family' (lower left); further inscribed and dated 'BOMBAY BEGGERS [sic] / 1944' (on the reverse)
watercolor on paper
20 ¼ x 13 3/8 in. (51.4 x 34 cm.) image; 22 x 15 in. (55.9 x 38.1 cm.) sheet
Executed in 1944
The Collection of Chester and Davida Herwitz
Sotheby's New York, 5 December 2000, lot 174
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Souza in the Forties, exhibition catalogue, New Delhi, 1983, inside back cover (illustrated)
R. Rangarajan, 'A Contemporary Canvas', India Abroad, 5 July 2002, p. M9 (illustrated)
Modern Indian Works on Paper, Selections from a Private Collection, exhibition catalogue, Rutgers, 2006, p. 30 (illustrated)
T. Sears ed., Paper Trails: Works on Paper from the Gaur Collection, Ahmedabad, 2022, p. 193 (illustrated)
New Delhi, Dhoomimal Gallery, Souza in the Forties, 1983
Athens, Georgia Museum of Art, Modern Indian Works on Paper, Selections from a Private Collection, 2006
Philadelphia, Arthur Ross Gallery, University of Pennsylvania, Modern Indian Works on Paper, Selections from a Private Collection, 2007
Grinnell, Grinnell College Museum of Art, Paper Trails: Works on Paper from the Gaur Collection, 27 September - 10 December 2022

Brought to you by

Nishad Avari
Nishad Avari Specialist, Head of Department

Lot Essay

After moving from his native Goa to Bombay, Francis Newton Souza enrolled in the Sir J.J. School of Art in 1940, only to be expelled in 1945 for his role in the protests against its British Director Charles Gerrard during the Quit India movement. The artist's first biographer, Edwin Mullins describes the period, noting that Souza was becoming "Increasingly vexed by the polite inertia of Bombay society, with its borrowed aesthetic values and its indifference to the condition of India [...]” (E. Mullins, Souza, London, 1962, p. 17). Branded a ‘Rebel Artist’ by the critic and curator Hermann Goetz, Souza soon found himself in the company of other revolutionaries, eventually becoming member of the Communist Party of India in 1947.

Geeta Kapur describes Souza’s politicization in the mid-1940s and its effect on his early body of works like the present lot in her seminal 1978 essay on Souza, ‘Devil in the Flesh’ noting, “Being by temperament a fighter every pang of humiliation he felt as an individual or as a ‘native’ roused him to retaliation and attack. He converted this fighting spirit into revolutionary politics. The [Communist] Party welcomed him on the popular front, and his art of the period did indeed merit enthusiasm from the comrades. He devised his figures according to class-types, showed them in their environment, labeled them with appropriate titles. He depicted the plight of the poor (Goan peasants, Bombay Proletariat); he exposed the villains (Capitalists in particular, the bourgeoisie in general). He painted, moreover, in an idiom belonging broadly to the Social Realist category and was more than willing, with the help of the party organization, to show his paintings in the working class colonies of Bombay. He was hailed in the People's Age, the Party paper, as a patriot and a revolutionary” (G. Kapur, Contemporary Indian Artists, New Delhi, 1978, p. 7).

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